Cats lose Stokes for at least one AFL game

Roger Vaughan and Brad Waters
Cats could be without Mathew Stokes for an extended period as their season enters a critical phase.

Geelong could be without in-form midfielder Mathew Stokes for an extended period as their AFL season enters a critical phase.

Stokes hurt his ankle early in last weekend's loss to Gold Coast and coach Chris Scott confirmed the onballer would definitely miss Friday night's blockbuster against Essendon.

"That's a reasonably significant ankle issue," Scott said.

"The long-term prognosis is a bit more uncertain, but definitely not this week.

"They're telling us somewhere between one and eight - it won't be eight, it will be more than one."

Scott said the Cats had relied on Stokes this season and he was worth more than his large number of possessions.

Geelong are also unsure about ruckman Hamish McIntosh, who was seen in a moon boot after the Suns loss, but are confident Harry Taylor and George Horlin-Smith will be available.

Last weekend's result put Geelong out of the top four and heightened speculation their time at the top of the ladder is coming to an end.

But Scott pointed out they remain level on points with fourth-placed Fremantle.

He added they were in a reasonably-strong position despite several of their best players not showing top form.

"Some people might say that's a problem ... we prefer to look at it glass half-full," Scott said.

"They're very proud and successful footballers (and) if those guys can raise their level a little bit, which is absolutely possible, then all of a sudden we become a much better team.

"When you consider all those things, there's plenty of reason for optimism."

The Cats coach said he respected those who say their time is over, but strongly disagrees with the pessimism.

"Sooner or later, the person who speculates is going to be right," Scott said.

"I would probably disagree with them right at the moment, but again it's not my position really to argue the toss.

"We're excited about what we're doing and where we're going to be."

Scott added their contested ball and defensive work had been two key areas of concern.

"We didn't think we did many things right on the weekend, but fortunately the week before we did a lot right," he said.

"So it's a matter of taking the good parts from previous weeks - and we have been a pretty well-performed team this year.

"But we've just dropped away in a few areas."

One of the features of Friday's Etihad Stadium clash will be Essendon's Paul Chapman, who will play against his old club for the first time.

Chapman asked the Bombers to be rested last weekend so he would be ready for the Cats.

"They'll be looking forward to playing him as much as he's looking forward to playing us," Scott said of Chapman's old team-mates.

He is also impressed with how Chapman has conducted himself this week and how the former Cats great reacted late last year with being delisted from Geelong.

"That doesn't take away from the theatre and I think he'll embrace it and we'll embrace it as well," Scott said.